Reviews of New People by Danzy Senna

New People

by Danzy Senna

New People by Danzy Senna X
New People by Danzy Senna
  • Critics' Opinion:

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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2017, 240 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2018, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the bestselling author of Caucasia, a subversive and engrossing novel of race, class and manners in contemporary America.

As the twentieth century draws to a close, Maria is at the start of a life she never thought possible. She and Khalil, her college sweetheart, are planning their wedding. They are the perfect couple, "King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom." Their skin is the same shade of beige. They live together in a black bohemian enclave in Brooklyn, where Khalil is riding the wave of the first dot-com boom and Maria is plugging away at her dissertation, on the Jonestown massacre. They've even landed a starring role in a documentary about "new people" like them, who are blurring the old boundaries as a brave new era dawns. Everything Maria knows she should want lies before her - yet she can't stop daydreaming about another man, a poet she barely knows. As fantasy escalates to fixation, it dredges up secrets from the past and threatens to unravel not only Maria's perfect new life but her very persona.

Heartbreaking and darkly comic, New People is a bold and unfettered page-turner that challenges our every assumption about how we define one another, and ourselves.

Excerpt
New People

She wasn't expecting to see him here tonight. Now, her face feels warm as she watches him step onto the stage and pick up the microphone. He stands like a teenager, slouched and ambivalent, hands shoved in his pockets, as if he's been forced to appear, forced to read his poetry before strangers. Maria first met him several months ago—and now, it seems, he is everywhere she looks. Or maybe she is everywhere he looks. Just last week she ran into him at a restaurant. He was there—sitting at the bar alone, drinking a beer—when she arrived to meet a friend. She stopped to say hello and he said a polite hello back, frowning as if he couldn't remember her name. Afterward, she sat only half listening to her friend rattle on about work, conscious with every breath of his form at the bar.

In the audience, listening to his voice, she realizes that she has been waiting to see him again. She feels uneasy with this awareness. She keeps her eyes fixed ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

At times, the glimpses into Maria's inner thoughts take readers to some pretty dark and uncomfortable places that will compel readers to confront their own assumptions about race and identity. Readers who pick up New People in 2017, more than twenty years after its setting, will recognize both how much Brooklyn, its residents, and the country as a whole have continued to evolve over the intervening decades and how relevant the issues raised in its pages — from gentrification and the creative economy to, more broadly, issues of race and identity — still remain...continued

Full Review (594 words).

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(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

Elle
Danzy Senna bores into the dynamics of race, identity, heritage, poverty, and privilege in contemporary America…Agile and ambitious.

Entertainment Weekly
You'll gulp Senna's novel in a single sitting - but then mull over it for days.

Harper's Bazaar
The stakes of Senna's latest triumph are both personal and global and will provide a powerful and necessary echo of our current cultural climate.

The Huffington Post
A striking, off-kilter exploration of race and class.

Vulture
Danzy Senna's latest stunner of a novel is both political and bingeable, worthy of a one-sitting read

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Every detail and subplot, including Maria's dissertation on the Jonestown massacre and her buried secret about a college prank gone awry, is resonant. A great book about race and a great book all around.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Senna's latest is a great read, both compelling and thoughtful. The narrative has a page-turning urgency, as Maria tumbles toward a disaster of her own making, while her musings on race shift between provocative and cynical.

Booklist
With a dark sense of humor, Senna builds her story with a horror-like tension that releases with a tongue-in-cheek sigh. Sure to keep readers riding white-knuckled to the end.

Publishers Weekly
Significant themes and issues are touched upon here but unfortunately get lost before fully landing.

Author Blurb Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
I stayed up way later than planned to finish New People, Danzy Senna's riveting, take-no-prisoners, dystopic dream of a novel. More scorcher than satire, New People loads identity, race, despair, and desire into a blender then hits high. Get ready to stay up late, to be propelled, pricked, and haunted.

Author Blurb Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings
Remarkable. New People plays out like Greek tragedy and social comedy all at once, reminding you that the worst kind of hell is always the one we raise.

Author Blurb Mat Johnson, author of Loving Day
Danzy Senna detonates the bomb between respectability and desire. In hypnotizing prose, New People kicks you in the gut, then sings you a lullaby. Read this and be haunted. Senna is a master.

Author Blurb Rachel Kushner, author of The Flame Throwers
New People sparkles with precision, and with antic and merciless hilarity. I was seduced into reading it in one sitting, but will be thinking about it for a long time to come. This book - utterly grave, and yet beautifully light-hearted - is a wonder.

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Beyond the Book

The Jonestown Settlement

In New People, Maria's dissertation focuses on the Jonestown settlement in Guyana and on the massacre that resulted in the death of some 900 men, women, and children from poisoning on November 18, 1975. Jonestown was developed, and sold to believers, as a sort of utopian community led by Jim Jones, who founded the People's Temple in Indianapolis in the 1950s. This Christian sect preached a message of inclusion, equality, and anti-racism, and consequently attracted many African Americans — though Jones himself was white. The settlement's formal name was The People's Temple Agricultural Project.

Jim Jones Eventually, former People's Temple members and the families of current ones began to alert authorities that the group was exhibiting cult...

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